Populist Caucus, allies speak out for fair trade

Members of Bruce Braley’s Populist Caucus were among 55 House members who took a stand against the Panama Free Trade Agreement today in an open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After the jump I’ve posted the full text of the letter, along with the list of those who signed. Here is an excerpt:

We believe trade agreements must meet basic standards protecting labor rights, environmental standards, food safety regulations, financial regulations, and taxation transparency. We are disturbed by Panama’s tax haven status and the use of this tax haven by U.S. financial institutions like AIG and Citibank. The U.S. is currently contemplating stricter financial regulations to protect our economy, but the Panama FTA will likely weaken any such effort. We believe the Panama FTA should be renegotiated in order to address these outstanding issues.

President Obama campaigned effectively on changing the trade model and his message resonated with the American people.  We believe the Panama FTA falls far short of that commitment and it is not in the best interests of the American worker, our economy, or our country.  We share your commitment to fighting for working families and believe you can be an effective advocate for our cause.

The House members who signed the letter mostly belong to the Populist Caucus, House Trade Working Group, and/or the Progressive Caucus. I noticed that Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) joined Braley (IA-01) among the 17 Populist Caucus members who signed. Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03) was among six Populist Caucus members who did not sign. One Republican signed: Walter Jones (NC-03).

“Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles” is one of the six key priorities for the Populist Caucus.

Later today, a U.S. Trade Representative announced that the Panama agreement “won’t be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new ‘framework’ for trade.” At Open left, David Sirota interpreted that announcement as a victory (albeit possibly only temporary) for the Populist Caucus, its allies and the AFL-CIO, which had already come out against the Panama agreement.

We’ll see whether the White House is willing to deviate significantly from the NAFTA model in this agreement. Whatever the final outcome, I am glad to see a large House contingent taking a stand for fair trade.

I still hope the Populist Caucus will get more involved in the health care debate.

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New thread on Obama appointments: labor, trade and science

News about several more key appointments by President-elect Barack Obama emerged today. His choice for Secretary of Labor will be Representative Hilda Solis of California, a bit of a surprise since she didn’t seem to be on any of the short lists leaked so far.

Solis comes from a union family and is a passionate supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as “card check,” which would make it easier to organize workers in non-union workplaces). Her voting record on labor issues is very solid.

TomP has more background on Solis, including YouTubes.

Ideally, Obama would have introduced his Labor Secretary along with the rest of his economic team to underscore the importance of the job, but I’m not going to quibble about the timing. This is a very solid appointment. I assume that Solis would not give up a safe House seat unless Obama had given her some assurances that he would keep his campaign promise to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Speaking of which, Representative Xavier Becerra of California declined Obama’s offer to become U.S. Trade Representative a few days ago. It was a smart move, as Becerra has a chance to become Speaker of the House someday. Today Obama offered that job to former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Transportation.

Obama made some campaign promises about replacing “free trade” with “fair trade,” but it’s not clear whether choosing Kirk signals a plan to retreat from those promises. The Wall Street Journal argued that

By naming Mr. Kirk, Mr. Obama nodded to the free-trade wing of the Democratic Party, which is small but has important ties to business.

Solis is firmly in the “fair trade” camp of the Democratic Party.

Obama’s chief science adviser will be the physicist John Holdren, an internationally-renowned expert on energy and climate issues. He is apparently a highly effective communicator as well as a brilliant scientist.

Obama also has chosen Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a very large agency within the Commerce Department. The Deep Sea News blog ran with the headline, “Obama Appoints Totally Awesome Marine Biologist to Head NOAA!”

Holy Mola! I can’t contain my excitement about this appointment. Her work in marine ecology and conservation is seminal and her involvement in science outreach is phenomenal. This marks a new era for NOAA indeed. I am very excited to see where she takes the agency. Yet again, another amazing Obama appointment. It feels so strange to have a president who respects science and appoints highly qualified people to important posts.

It’s looking more and more like Obama is serious about tackling the global warming problem. But can any of the highly qualified scientists he’s appointed talk him out of promoting “clean coal”?

UPDATE: Reuters says Obama “has chosen retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair as the top U.S. intelligence official” and will announce that decision soon.

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Free Trade vs Smart Trade, Edwards takes on the Supply-Siders

Since the days of Reagan, America has been chasing a Theory.

Since the Clinton era, and the rise of NAFTA and Global Free Trade, our “Corporate Leaders” have been conducting an unprecedented Social Experiment.

The Experiment: Economic Darwinism

The Test Subjects in this Experiment: none other than American Workers and our “more competitive” counterparts, overseas.

Supply-siders have argued that Economic Growth comes from empowering Corporate Interests to become “More Productive”, by whatever means necessary. Be it “Tax-Give-aways to the Wealthy”, or “Job-Give-aways to Poor Foreigners”, well that's just fine with them, long is it results in Corporate Growth.

Supply-siders are happy to trade away American Dignity for the sake of short-term Profits: “American Workers just need some retraining. They just need to apply themselves.”

We just need to learn to Adapt”(to Global Markets?)

That's the Theory, that's the Spin.  What are the Results of this on-going plan to outsource the American Dream?

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